‘Most Important Box Office Force?’: Experts Weigh in on Pandemic-Era Success of ‘Spider-Man’

© AP Photo / Jordan StraussTom Holland arrives at the premiere of "Spider-Man: No Way Home" at the Regency Village Theater on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles.
Tom Holland arrives at the premiere of Spider-Man: No Way Home at the Regency Village Theater on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.12.2021
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Variety, the publication of record covering Hollywood, has declared that after the record-breaking success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the Marvel character is “Hollywood’s most important box-office force,” underscoring that the film series is “Hollywood’s most important film franchise.”
The film, which was released last weekend, is the ninth big-screen adventure of everyone’s favorite friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, following the three films that kicked the franchise off with Tobey Maguire in the titular role and two that starred Andrew Garfield.
The popular series also included the animated outing called “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which earned widespread acclaim when it was released in 2018, later winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Film.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the third installment with Tom Holland in the role of Peter Parker, following 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” The films are part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), allowing the character to crossover with other iconic Marvel characters and their respective movies, such as he did in entries in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) and “Avengers: Endgame” (2019).
The latest installment made an eye-watering $587.2 million worldwide last weekend, which marked it “the third-biggest global debut of all-time, trailing only the two most recent Avengers outings” in which Spider-Man also appeared. This included $260 million in North America, making it the second-largest opening in the US market behind only “Avengers: Endgame,” according to popular box office reporting site BoxOfficeMojo.com.
The stunning box office performance is even more remarkable given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of the Omicron variant. The film’s release was easily the biggest since the pandemic hit in early 2020, despite ongoing fears and safety protocols.
Much has been made of Variety’s reporting of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in particular.
According to journalist Rebecca Rubin, the film is on track to be the first since Covid hit to gross over a billion dollars worldwide - all the while high-profile movies like Guillermo Del Toro’s adaptation of “Nightmare Alley” and Steven Spielberg’s remake of the classic musical “West Side Story” both received critical acclaim, but failed to make even a fraction of what “Spider-Man” did on just its debut weekend.
The success of “Spider-Man” proves “audiences are willing to go to theaters — but certainly not for any ol’ movie,” Rubin writes.
© REUTERS / MARIO ANZUONI Cast members Tom Holland and Zendaya attend the premiere for the film Spider-Man: No Way Home in Los Angeles, California, December 13, 2021.
 Cast members Tom Holland and Zendaya attend the premiere for the film Spider-Man: No Way Home in Los Angeles, California, December 13, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.12.2021
Cast members Tom Holland and Zendaya attend the premiere for the film Spider-Man: No Way Home in Los Angeles, California, December 13, 2021.
Variety wasn’t the only publication to offer analysis of the film’s box office performance, as Vulture declared last weekend the “most Important box-office weekend ever” because “it represents movie theaters rising like a phoenix from an incredibly challenging and tough time where many counted out the movie theater for good,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian explained to the outlet.
However, noted online pop-culture newspaper and entertainment website The A.V. Club responded to Variety’s coverage in an article provocatively called “Box office experts try to solve the mystery of why ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ made so much money.”
A.V. Club's Sam Barsanti, writing online, says “We’re not box office experts here, we merely have an academic curiosity about it, but it seems likely to us that ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ made a lot of money because… it’s a movie about Spider-Man, one of the most beloved superheroes across multiple generations.”
“Also, it’s a known-quantity superhero movie that went straight to theaters, with no option to stream it at home, so people would want to see it no matter what,” Barsanti continued. “Also, people are sick of worrying about COVID, and it was just a matter of time before something caused the dam to burst, which every movie studio has been betting on since last fall.”
Variety also noted that even Spider-Man-adjacent media, like the two movies featuring Tom Hardy as Spidey’s longtime symbiotic foe “Venom” in his own solo spinoffs, have prospered because of their affiliation with the world’s most durable web-crawler. While Spidey’s next appearance in the MCU is reportedly still being figured out, a sequel to “Into the Spider-Verse” entitled “Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)” is set to debut in 2022.
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